Shane Gallagher of San Joaquin Delta College took top honors at the state SkillsUSA competition this year.
Automotive student comes through in the clutch
Alex Breitler
September 23, 2018

Shane Gallagher grew up going to car shows. Posters of Ferraris and Mustangs adorned his bedroom walls. And as soon as he was old enough, his father – a mechanic – taught him how to change the oil and perform basic repairs. 

So when Gallagher, now 32, lost his sales job a few years ago, he decided to go back to his first love:

Cars.Shane Gallagher of San Joaquin Delta College took gold at the state SkillsUSA competition last spring.

“I thought, ‘Let’s make a career out of it and see how it goes,’” he said.

It’s going pretty well, if the Delta student’s recent performance at the SkillsUSA state competition in Ontario is any indication.

Gallagher won first place at the state championship and went on to compete at the national level in Louisville, Kentucky in June. He expects to soon finish his certificate as an automotive master technician and an associate degree in automotive technology.

During the recent competition, Gallagher was required to perform a series of tasks under a tight deadline, like taking apart the brakes, hooking up gauges or removing a timing belt. Gallagher’s instructor at Delta, Dan Bonnema, attended the competition but wasn’t allowed to communicate with Gallagher during the tests. Cell phones were off limits.

All of this was stressful, Gallagher said, but also a taste of reality for technicians who will someday be working in a busy auto shop.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” Gallagher said, “and I suggest anybody even remotely thinking about it give it a shot.”

Shane Gallagher of San Joaquin Delta College competes at the SkillsUSA state competition this year.

Shane Gallagher works on a car at the state SkillsUSA competition. Photo courtesy Dan Bonnema.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working to ensure that the U.S. has a skilled workforce. Areas of competition range from the arts to construction, health sciences and transportation.

Gallagher had one advantage: While attending classes at Delta, he is already working as an auto tech at the Toyota dealership. He was more experienced than some of his younger competitors. Still, it was a surprise when his name was called as the gold medal winner.

The national competition was at an even higher level as Gallagher competed with the champions from dozens of other states. He finished middle-of-the-pack, but with no regrets.

This is the first time a Delta student won the state competition in automotive technology, Bonnema said. The award gives Gallagher an extra accomplishment to tout as he prepares to leave Delta and launch his second career.

“I was so proud that a Delta student did this,” Bonnema said. “Shane took the time to invest in his education, and it’s paying off already.”

Shane Gallagher and Associate Professor Dan Bonnema of San Joaquin Delta College pose after Gallagher took gold at the SkillsUSA competition.

Shane Gallagher, right, poses with Delta College Associate Professor Dan Bonnema. 

Other results

SkillsUSA 2019 will begin early next year. Here’s how other Delta students fared in the 2018 state competition:

Welding – Oxy-Acetylene

Nathan Koblick — gold

Welding – Shielded Metal Arc

Jessie Ticer — gold

Industrial Motor Control

Jesus Rivera — silver

Douglas Penry — bronze

Technical drafting (engineering)

Tanner Mcilree — silver

Nhat Nguyen — bronze

Electrical Construction Wiring

Jeffrey Iodice — bronze

Shane Gallagher of San Joaquin Delta College stands atop the podium at the SkillsUSA state competition this year.

Shane Gallagher atop the winner's podium at the state competition. Photo courtesy Dan Bonnema.